Research from King’s College London found that 39 per cent of people aged between 18 and 30 reported symptoms of addiction using a validated tool known as the smartphone addiction scale.
Symptoms include losing control over how long they spend on their phone, feeling distressed when they cannot access their device, and neglecting other areas of their life. The study of 1,043 students found that 406 (38.9%) displayed symptoms of smartphone addiction, as defined by the clinical tool devised to diagnose the problem.
More than two-thirds (68.7%) of the addicts had trouble sleeping, compared with 57.1% of those who were not addicted to their device. Students who used their phone after midnight or for four or more hours a day were most likely to be at high risk of displaying addictive use of their device.
“While the use of screens can be alarming, it’s worth noting that the screen is not the problem, it’s the solution, the coping mechanism for perceived struggles.”
Adds Samantha Sohn, lead author at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience (ioPPN):
“Smartphones are increasingly becoming indispensable parts of our daily lives, and this study is an important step in looking at their impact in terms of dysfunctional use and on sleep in a UK population.”
Commenting on the study Dr Ben Carter, senior lecturer at ioPPN says:
“Our study provides further support to the growing body of evidence that smartphone ‘addiction’ has a negative impact on sleep.
“It also shows that the impact of sleep quality and smartphone addiction is down to more than how long we are using our phones for. This could help clinicians when treating children and adults with sleeping difficulties about how they identify problematic usage.”
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, the chair of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told The Guardian:
“The negative impact of smartphone use on sleep is very concerning from a mental health perspective. Many young people have struggled with their sleep and mental health during this pandemic and poor quality or insufficient sleep can be both a symptom and a cause of mental health problems.
“Regular smartphone use before bed, which may be seen in ‘smartphone addiction’, can significantly affect sleep. Keeping a good sleep routine is vital for young people’s health and wellbeing and young people should try to limit their smartphone use late at night, for example, by charging their phone in a different room to their bedroom.”